It's hard to believe it's our last night in Hannah House, our home for the week. I'm pretty sure that I can speak for everyone that we learned a TON this week - about social, environmental and economic sustainability and ourselves. I can't think of a better community partner for a service-learning experience than Good Works. The principles by which they operate align perfectly with service-learning. They believe in relationships being the most important part of service. Just as ideal service-learning experiences focus on working WITH the community in a mutually beneficial experience, Good Works staff emphasize the importance of building a relationship with neighbors and friends throughout our work in the community. Spending time getting to know someone is more important that the program or service. It isn't about showing up, serving and leaving, it's about taking time to relate to people, to provide a ray of hope for them when they might otherwise be feeling overlooked because of the situation (poverty) in which they have found themselves. As we discussed as a group this week, those living in poverty or homelessness often feel as though they don't have much to offer others, or that they deserve to be in the position they are in. But when someone (a volunteer, for example) spends time with them, it often gives them a reason to believe they deserve better. Thanks to the good folks at Good Works, our morning conversations serve as a pre-reflection for the day (and a post-reflection from the previous day). This is yet another way Good Works is an ideal community partner for a service-learning experience. I've been very impressed with our students' comments during the reflections. It's not often that a librarian gets to experience the "end result" so to speak. I've gotten to witness their learning in person, which is exciting and inspiring. Today, I spent the day with three staff members from Monday Creek Restoration Project and two students. We sloshed through the creek, witnessed water seeping from a coal mine and helped clear a portion of the Buckeye Trail. Monday Creek watershed was our lab today. If it hadn't been a short day today due to a special event this evening, we might have tested some water for its pH. This evening, we spent a few hours at Della Zona, a restaurant in Athens, that uses local food. The owner started by engaging us in conversation about the social, environmental and economic impacts of using local food. We helped prepare our meal, which was a delicious warm lentil salad and fresh greens salad with house made vinagrette dressing. It was not only delicious, but also gorgeous, of course. One of the concepts emphasized at Della Zona was the challenge of operating as they do in a world that doesn't value the same principles. While big box stores reign, the Della Zona staff think outside of the box and they have the freedom to be creative. They support their own community and build relationships. They contribute healthy food to their neighbors. It was an amazing meal, and it is an amazing business.
Tomorrow, most of us will visit the small town of Glouster to clean up their city park. Others will go to the Athens Public Library again to continue shifting the adult collection. While we will not finish the big shift, we will make significant progress and they will be close to finishing. We made a lot of progress. It feels good to support a community through their library. More reflection to come...stay tuned.